World cinema has lost another one of its great filmmakers. Jan Nemec, a pioneer of the Czech New Wave, has passed away at the age of 79 on March 18.
Originally a lover of jazz, Nemec had decided to become a filmmaker rather than pursue his love for jazz. In 1960, he graduated from the FAMU (The Academy of Performing Arts) Film School in Prague. His first film was a short film entitled A Piece of Bread, released the same year he graduated from FAMU.
In 1964, Nemec made his feature film debut with Diamonds of the Night, the story of two Jewish boys who escape a concentration camp and are hunted down. Two years later, he made his most well-known film, A Report on the Party and Guests, the story of a group of friends on a picnic who are invited to a bizarre banquet by a charismatic sadist, played by Ivan Vyskočil, who eventually bullies most of them into blind conformity and brutality while those who resist are hunted down. However, despite the film, authorities were none too thrilled with the film due to the fact that the sadist of the film had a striking resemblance to Russian leader Lenin and thus, was arrested by the government for “subversion”.
At a time of the government controlling all subject matter in films, Nemec became a rebel but the hard work paid off as his film Mother and Son earned him an award at the Oberhausen Film Festival. His 1968 documentary Oratorio for Prague was banned due to its matter of the Soviet invasion of Prague.
In 1968, Nemec left home but upon returning, was now allowed to make films. The subject matters of his films have caused him to be temporarily banned from making films when he would return to his homeland. In 1974, he was once again allowed to leave but was issued a government warning that if he returned home, he would be thrown in jail.
Nemec spent the mid-1970’s and 1980’s abroad. He spent twelve years in the United States. In 1989, after the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, Nemec finally returned home and once again was able to make the films he had wanted to make. In 1996, he returned to his alma mater, the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, to become a professor.
Nemec is survived by his fourth wife, film editor Iva Ruszelakova, whom he married in 2003, and one child.
Despite a former government preventing him from making the films he had wanted to make, Jan Nemec stood the tests of time and never forgotten his dream of filmmaking. As matter of fact, before his death, he made one more film, titled The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street, due for release in the Czech Republic on July 1, 2016.
World Film Geek sends its condolences to the family of Jan Nemec. May he Rest in Peace.